As part of the dwindling offseason, SOTU will preview each game on the Canes' schedule. During the season there will be much more in-depth previews the week before each game, but these will serve to get you ready for what is to come. Enjoy!
North Carolina broke through as a team/program in 2015. Can Miami do the same in 2016 and get revenge following last season's demolition in Chapel Hill?
Look, we all remember what happened last season Vs UNC (or if you managed to forget, consider yourself lucky). Larry Fedora's club was way too much to handle. The Hurricanes came into the contest riding high under interim coach Larry Scott, coming off wins Vs Duke and UVA. But Marquise Williams and all of the talented weapons around him made the 'Canes look helpless in the 59-21 drubbing. The Heels would go on to play for the ACC Title, where they gave eventual National runner up Clemson all they could handle. Miami would finish out the season under Scott, and hire Mark Richt shortly thereafter. UM fans have to hope the coaching change, as well as the memories last season's contest between the two, makes this year's battle one where the Hurricanes are out for blood.
This season the game will be played in Miami.
Circle Saturday October 15th on your calendars 'Canes fans.
This is a game that should play a big role in deciding the Coastal, and could also be galvanizing for Richt and the team should they get their payback.
All time, Miami leads the series 9-8.
The last time they played in Sun Life, Miami rolled to a 47-20 win behind behind a freshman QB named Brad Kaaya, all time leading rusher Duke Johnson, and some nice catches by future Raider Clive Walford.
Since last season's game is almost too much to revisit, let's take a look at those Highlights:
UNC will once again be led by its' high tempo offense.
Last season, their explosive O led the country in yards per play (7.28).
But this year they will be with out Williams, and led by RS Junior Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky is a very accurate passer, and at 6'3 220 has good size for the position. He's not quite as mobile as Williams was, but the drop off may not be as precipitous as you think. In mop up duty last year, he completed 85 percent of his passes (no typo there).
And Trubisky will not have to do it alone.
Elijah Hood and T.J Logan are back to provide a nice one-two punch at the RB position.
Ridiculously shifty WR/return man Ryan Switzer, deep threat Bug Howard, and versatile Mack Hollins are also back to catch passes.
This should be a very explosive unit, yet again.
The 'Canes will need a better pass rush this season, featuring Chad Thomas and Al-Quadin Muhammad.
But the Heels also return 4 starters on the O line.
So it will be no easy task.
When new DC Manny Diaz brings the heat, Corn Elder and the DB's need to hold up.
Given UM's inexperience beside Elder at CB, that may be the biggest concern heading into this contest.
When Miami has the ball, Brad Kaaya has plenty of weapons of his own to toss to.
He'll face a Gene Chizik D that no longer has do it all LB Jeff Schoettmer.
But last year's leading tackler, S Donnie Miles, is back.
The fact that their returning tackler is a DB tells you all you need to know about the weakness of the defense.
If you can run the ball Vs the Heels, and avoid turnovers, you are in business.
Joe Yearby and Mark Walton could be in for a huge day in this one. Miami's offensive line was average at best last season. This one could be a make it or break it type game for them.
And the Heels defense really should have no one who can match up with Stacy Coley or David Njoku, when Richt and Co. go play action.
Expect this game to be a shoot out.
Players to Watch:
QB Mitch Trubisky - He has huge shoes to fill. Williams was nearly as dynamic (if not as consistent) as Deshaun Watson of Clemson last year. He's a different player than Williams or Watson, but he needs to be the maestro for this fast paced offense to succeed.
RB Elijah Hood - This 6'0 220 pound bulldog averaged 6.6 ypc last season and had 17 TD's. If the 'Canes can't slow him down, that makes Trubisky's life all that much easier.
WR Ryan Switzer - I actually like how Elder matches up with him in coverage. But the 'Canes need to contain him in the return game. His 78 yard punt return last year, was a total back breaker.
DT Nazair Jones - There's no sugarcoating it. The Heels run defense was atrocious at times in 2015. Jones is a 6'5 295 pound bowling ball, who needs to step up if UNC's D is to close up some of its' gaping holes Vs the run.
If UM wants to win their first division title since joining the conference, this is one they have to have.
Aside from FSU, for obvious reasons, this game in my opinion is the most important contest on the schedule.
I expect both teams to move the ball at will, but if the Hurricanes attacking from 7 gets some heat on Trubisky, that could be the X factor.
They also have to hold up on Special Teams.
UNC does a lot of damage on returns, and K Nick Weiler is pretty reliable.
This should be a much tighter contest than last season's.
Look for the winner to face whomever prevails among FSU-Clemson in the ACC Title game.
Richt and the 'Canes will have revenge on their minds.
If they can avenge last season's bloodbath, it may very well be a defining moment for the program in a new era.